Monday, May 23, 2005
- Good read: "Stop the Masochistic Insanity: The violent response to the report of 'Quranic abuse' isn't about faith, it's about intolerance," by Christopher Hitchens in Slate
- On a related note, since the Gulf War, popular media usage of the term "The Koran" seems to have shifted rapidly towards the more transliteratively correct "The Quran" (or Qur'an). Thoughts?
- Georgia State University launches a pilot program that uses virtual reality gear to treat fear of public speaking [via Gizmodo]
- In response to the news that Naperville, Illinois' public libraries will begin using electronic fingerprint identification on borrowers, Gapers Block tips us to an article by Yokohama National University IT researcher Tsutomu Matsumoto et al. [on Cryptome.org] detailing how fake "gummy fingers" can easily fool fingerprint sensors:
...gummy fingers, namely artificial fingers that are easily made of cheap and readily available gelatin, were accepted by extremely high rates by particular fingerprint devices with optical or capacitive sensors. We have used the molds, which we made by pressing our live fingers against them or by processing fingerprint images from prints on glass surfaces, etc. We describe how to make the molds, and then show that the gummy fingers, which are made with these molds, can fool the fingerprint devices. [read full article, which includes detailed step-by-step instructions for making "gummy fingers."]So, John Doe didn't actually have to amputate Victor (the "Sloth" victim)'s hand to falsify his fingerprints in Se7en? Oh well, watching Kevin Spacey cast a prosthetic gelatin hand wouldn't have been nearly as entertaining.
- Now here's an 'appropriate' use of our tax dollars: using Medicaid to provide Viagra™ to high-risk convicted sex offenders. Some might say denying medication based on a person's criminal record would be a violation of civil rights. But, consider that 198 of the men who received Viagra™ through Medicaid [I'm not entirely sure from the article whether these figures are national, or limited to the state of New York] were classified by authorities as Level 3 offenders - those considered most likely to commit crimes again. From CNN:
[New York State Comptroller Alan] Hevesi said his office found that from January 1, 2000, through March 31, 2005, 198 Level 3 sex offenders received Medicaid-reimbursed Viagra after being convicted of a sex offense. Sex offenders are those convicted of crimes such as rape, sexual abuse, and sexual conduct against a child.So, Grandma (or Grandpa) Jones next door may not be able to afford blood pressure medication, but the convicted pedophile or rapist across the street is eligible to receive Uncle Sam-bankrolled erections? Doesn't seem right to me. [Also see NY Newsday's spin on the story]
Level 3 offenders are those considered by the courts most likely to commit crimes again. According to Hevesi, his office determined in its audit that the victims of the sex crimes during the five-year period ranged from toddlers to a woman as old as 90; and the crimes included first-degree rape.
- WIRED News has a story on Spanish artist Fernando Orellana's Unending Closure robotics installation, in the Vida 7.0 Art and Artificial Life Competition in Madrid:
Unending Closure presents viewers with three robots enclosed in tall, narrow columns. Each column has a thin slit through which people can see the robots, and vice versa. When no one is nearby, the three robots appear to communicate with each other by emitting a series of calm, running-water-like sounds.In the interest of full disclosure, I admit I did cry a bit (gulp) during the Flesh Fair scenes in A.I., when the unwanted robots were being "executed" as entertainment for a slavering crowd of 21th Century rednecks (okay, I know we're in the 21st Century now, but we're talking the "tail end."). [See also a provocative site called "The Mysteries of A.I.," especially the page detailing an interpretation of Jewish symbolism in the film.]
When people approach the robots, however, they react. If someone gets close, the robot that senses a person crossing its RF scan will respond with what seems like curiosity. But when viewers get too close, the robots are designed to do what could only be called freaking out. "The robot tries to get away," Orellana explained, "but it's impossible for it to get away, because it lives in its enclosure, so all it can do is spin around and try to get away from immediate danger."
The installation is Orellana's commentary on how humans have come to live with so much fear since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. "For me, it's a piece about paranoia," he said, "and specifically, the paranoia that's evolved in the last four years: People being stuck inside of their shells, and wanting to look around, and at the smallest bit of danger, they recoil."